RICHMOND, Va. (CBSDC) — For 11 days they had seen the same faces in the meeting room and on the practice field.
After hours and hours together, established veterans simply trying to get their work in, younger players and long shots scrapping for a precious roster spot, it all becomes tiresome. But on Monday morning the Redskins saw a different look when the New England Patriots arrived in Richmond for three days of joint practices.
That’s a breath of fresh air during a time of year that is a grind for coaches and players, one day blending into another with the calendar losing all meaning. A scheduled meeting months in the making finally came to fruition with the two teams working against each other instead of teammates.
“Quick tempo. Precise passes. Good routes,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said in an assessment of the practice. “We knew we were going to get some good work. Any time you bring a group like this to practice, and you want us to line up with them and go toe-to-toe, it’s gonna always be fun. There’s gonna be some battles.”
There were plenty of those as players toed a line between playing physical football and taking care not to inflict injuries. But with full pads on, there were plenty of hits given and taken on both sides. Washington struggled to contain New England quarterback Tom Brady, who efficiently found one open receiver after another during the two scrimmage portions of practice.
The Redskins had some moments, too. Aldrick Robinson caught a long touchdown pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins, the second practice in three he’s made a big play and an encouraging sign after a sore hamstring limited him on Saturday. Tight end Jordan Reed made a wonderful catch cutting across toward the right sideline. And the matchups were intriguing. Patriots star corner Darrelle Revis covered both of Washington’s top wideouts, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson. It all lent some extra juice to a training camp that still has a week to go.
The two teams will meet again for a joint afternoon practice on Tuesday and one more morning session on Wednesday. They are the product of phone calls between New England coach Bill Belichick, whose team has made a habit of conducting joint practices in recent years, and Redskins coach Jay Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen. The logistics of moving an entire NFL team and its staff can be tricky. But in the end, both sides saw the value. They will also play a preseason game at FedEx Field on Thursday.
“As a head coach of an NFL team you don’t really get many opportunities to see what other people are doing,” Belichick said. “You can go around to some colleges, but that’s a little different set up. So in the NFL this is one of the few opportunities we would have to work with another staff, another team. You always pick up something because there are a lot of outstanding coaches on [Washington]. Whether it’s a coaching point or a drill or something that they do, I’m sure that we’ll be able to take a few things away from here.”
Belichick, Gruden and their top assistants spent May and June discussing how the practices would be set up, what periods would be for 7-on-7 work and 11-on-11 situations, which position drills would be conducted on what field. The goal was the same: To evaluate players against outside competition in a setting that looked and felt far more like a real game than the usual morning practice.
“You get a different style of offense, different style of defense and just continue to sharpen your skills,” Redskins defensive end Kedric Golston said. “And that’s what training camp is about. You get in that routine of just running the same plays, going against the same players. This right here allows you to go back to the fundamentals and really trust what the coaches are telling you to do so that when you go to game day you can translate all that to the field.”
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